You are here

National Park Service Renews Partnership With Mountain Bike Community


Five years after it entered into a memorandum of understanding to explore cycling opportunities in the National Park System, the International Mountain Bicycling Association has renewed the agreement with the National Park Service.

According to a news release from IMBA, the extension will run until 2015 and focus on efforts to build on existing projects and seek "new opportunities to enhance mountain biking in some of America's treasured national parks."

“Bicycling helps draw new visitors, especially younger people, and gives them fun, memorable experiences in the national parks,” said Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. “IMBA has shown through hard work and cooperative attitudes that they share our passion for protecting and enjoying our nation’s parks, and that they share our desire to cultivate that passion in a new generation.”

At IMBA, Executive Director Mike Van Abel said the initial five-year agreement "exceeded or expectations."

“At first there was some uncertainty about mountain biking in national parks, but each success we have created through this partnership has improved the next," said Mr. Van Abel. "Today, IMBA staff meet regularly with NPS officials in Washington and at park units around the nation to consider opportunities for the next round of shared-use trails.”

According to IMBA, among the achievements the relationship with the Park Service has led to are:

* Fighting obesity among the nation's youth. "The IMBA/NPS partnership is helping counteract this disturbing trend by restoring children’s exposure to the natural environment. For the sixth edition of IMBA’s Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day, a partnership between IMBA, Trips for Kids, and the National Park Service created 20 opportunities throughout the country for kids to experience nature on a bike and learn about their local parks."

* The Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew has visited dozens of parks to work on trail-building projects. Parks they have visited include:

• Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
• Big Bend National Park
• Cuyahoga Valley National Park
• Fort Dupont Park
• Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
• Saguaro National Park
• Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
• Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
• Homestead National Monument of America
• Mammoth Cave National Park
• Hawaii’i Volcanoes National Park
• Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
• Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
• Golden Gate National Recreation Area
• Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site
• Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
• Glen Canyon National Recreation Are
• New River Gorge National River
• Point Reyes National Seashore
• Petroglyph National Monument


Sean, if you could please tell us which national park is closing areas so they can be logged, that would be a huge story.

I'm new to mountain biking. It's one of the few things I can afford to do with the gas prices going up and one of the healthiest things my family does together as a group. There is a National Park about 30 miles from where I live and recently they are closing off sections and the private sector is moving in to log the land. The park service is telling us they are closing down the sections because the park is not producing sufficent funds to stay open to the public. Tell me Mike V. are you for real? You seem to me like a Fox TV/Rupert Murdoch spinner of the truth. I once delt with a girl like you in a debate forum I moderated. She claimed to be protecting one thing while at the same time it was obvious her job was to destroy an open forum for discussion through claiming that everything that was free was bad. Myspace shut down my group (the largest debate group on the net at the time) and about 20 other groups like mine 1 week after Murdoch purchased myspace. Myspace claimed my group was getting too many complaints yet nobody had complained to me but 1 girl that seemed a bit psychotic to me. A provocateur is what they call people like you. They make arguements that are very week filled with lots of psychosis and demand everyone be more restricted. There is plenty of space to make some trails designated for bikes. I understand that it would be dangerous for bikes to be on paths heavily populated with people, but in all reality, some trails just don't have many people at all on them. Acording to my local park service, not enough to even keep the park open to the public. So now they're going to cut down trees, they are lying to people by telling them it's the same as a natural forest fire. Cutting trees does nothing but dry the land. All thanks to people like you. The solution could have been to charge mountain bikers a yearly fee to pay for trail maintainence. But you don't want to hear it just like any other provocateur wouldn't want to hear a sound arguement. Provocateurs are people that don't want to debate. They like to inflame people and over react to things. So Mike.... When are we going to get rid of all the roads, homes, corporate sky scrapers, etc that kill all the natural land around. It makes so much more sense to go after the mountain bikers. Fewer bikers means more heart disease/diabetes means I can't wait for you to get the bill for that Mike V. Just plain stupid....

Interesting development regarding Mr. Vandeman. Turns out that he was arrested in Berkeley on charges of assault with a deadly weapon on two unsuspecting cyclists.

It's one thing to disagree on trail access issue, but taking the matter into your own hands...

Assault with a Deadly Weapon (Suspect Arrested)
UCPD crime report # 10-02127

East-West Fire Trail June 1, 2010

On Friday, May 28, 2010 UCPD received a report of an assault with a
deadly weapon which had occurred around 6 weeks earlier. The assault
occurred on a Sunday on the East-West Fire Trail located in the hills
above campus. The victims, two non-affiliated White males, reported
the crime after hearing of similar incidents occurring to bicyclists
on the fire trail. The victims were riding their bicycles westbound on
the trail when they encountered the suspect walking in the opposite
direction. The suspect was holding a handsaw and cut one of the
victims across the chest with the saw. The victims asked the suspect
why he had attacked them. He told them they should not be riding their
bicycles on the trail. The victims positively identified the suspect
from a photograph. UCPD contacted the suspect who admitted to holding
a saw in front of some bicyclists on a trail and contacting one of
them with the saw. The suspect was subsequently taken into custody.
One of the victims suffered minor injuries during the assault.
Additional charges may be filed from similar incidences on the fire
trail including one reported in a crime alert on May 6, 2010.

The suspect is described as:

VANDEMAN, Michael J., a White non-affiliated male, 67 years of age.

Toothdoctor, I also get tired of people bringing the same irrational argument to ban bicycles from trails. Cuts both ways. :) You're bringing the same old argument: "you're free to go in the park, you just can't bring your bike". So what if the NPS changed the access rule so that you could not hike, but could only mountain bike in the park? How would you like it?

So far, the science has shown that bikers do not create any more erosion than hikers, hence my bitter disagreement with the current rules.

To Zebulon,
We are in agreement; there is no court mandate to ban cyclists from National Parks. And we are in agreement that the NPS can do as it wants with our parks. But your continued droning persistence that cyclists are banned for irrational/illogical reasons is getting tired. Please address the science that was listed in the court case as well as in other NPS studies and back up your refutations with verifiable information of your own. You are also correct that “not wanting to share” really does not have much to do with reality; because the reality of the National Parks is that everyone is welcome to enter and enjoy the land. The NPS is not restricting your access, just your bike’s. As an avid mountain biker and hiker I have no problem with getting off of my bike to hit the Park trails on my own two feet. When I want to get on my bike again, I simply go somewhere else. Because, as you said in another post on this site, you will not hike because you find it boring, is not the NPS infringing upon your rights, it is your personal choice.

To imtnbke
I have to disagree that this is essentially a cultural problem. I still see it as essentially an environmental problem. While I cannot 100% refute your and Zebulon’s claims that there are “mountain bike haters” out there, I can claim that I have not come across it personally. I have been actively riding my mountain bike for over 12 years, over numerous trails throughout the Midwest (not the exciting biking climate or terrain that I am sure you are used to, but good for the area) and have never come across the cultural disconnect that you speak of. I am not sure if we Midwesterners are just of a calmer temperament than those that you deal with, or if it is that I am also an avid hiker as well and with a broader circle of observation can see both sides of the proverbial coin.
And while there very well may be more than a few diehard mountain bike haters out there, but there are certainly more than a few overzealous mountain bike lovers out there as well. As you said, it is similar to climate change argument: there are a few hard-core fanatics on both sides that will scream until they are blue in the face, without taking into account any hard facts or science. While I am for more people “trying a bit of trail cycling themselves” for a way to get outside; doing so as an aside to reduce ‘cultural alienation’ and find some middle ground does nothing to address the impact that this increased usage would have on the trails. As an active biker I have seen and have contributed to the environmental deterrents that the NPS had listed in their court case,, as their reasons for not allowing more trails in the Parks.
Maybe here in the Midwest we do not keep or maintain the bike trails as well as in other areas, and so maybe what I have seen is the worst of the worst, and thusly have a skewed perspective. Maybe, with the proper trail maintenance that Zebulon has implied is the norm amongst “bike lovers”, the science that he rails against is, while valid, not entirely applicable. For the sake of making my point, I will not argue this. Therefore I postulate, if the trail conditions that I have seen/contributed to, verifying the NPS’s science, are simply a result of poor maintenance, how is opening up/creating more trails in the NPS going to be good for the Parks. With the maintenance backlog now in place, how is adding to it with new extra demands for trail upkeep realistic. I fear that with not the money, nor the manpower to keep the trails in good shape, that the soil erosion and vegetative destruction the NPS talks about would be the norm.

Mike, I do have to say that some of your comments can be applied towards hiking as well. If I don't look where I'm placing my feet and 'keeping control' then I happen to crash....and I do so quite often. That's why when I'm both biking or hiking I always stop every so often and just take a look around. It's true that mountain bikes cause more erosion than hiking, but have you seen heavily hiked trails? There are some sections of trail in Shenandoah that are 2ft lower than the surrounding area, all from hiking boots. Bikes cause more, but not so much that we should ban them. Hikers kill small animals all the time by walking on them. I have seen many squashed toads and salamanders on trails. People hiking off trails or walking side by side on narrow trails also kill small plants on the sides of the trail. And those trekking poles...all those little holes they make! As for teaching kids that rough treatment of nature is ok...mountain biking is not rough treatment of nature. Instead it teaches our children (who are getting pretty chubby!) the benefits of putting down the video game controller and heading outside to ENJOY nature while they exercise. I am a ranger, a biologist, and a tree-hugging, bunny-loving, fern-fondling, dirt worshiper and I think mountain bikes are not the antichrist

You're right, I should be reading it every hour. But who can tear himself away from the latest about Tiger Woods? :-) (Actually, I regard that as the ultimate nonstory.)

Substantively, and in reply to toothdoctor, this is essentially a cultural problem, not an environmental one. Those who have hardly ever ridden a bicycle on a trail have a hard time understanding the appreciation for America's wildlands it instills in those of us who do it regularly, and an equally hard time understanding the tremendous salutary aspects of our method of travel (a light footprint, great physical fitness benefits, appeal to youth who would otherwise perch glaze-eyed in front of a video screen, etc.). The reason for this cultural disconnect is pretty simple: as we pass one another, you see a helmet, gears, and wheels and unless we stop to chat I imagine the image is alienating. That alienation insinuates itself into a generalized dislike for mountain biking, hence Zebulon's references to "mountain bike haters."

There are a few diehard mountain bike haters out there, but they are outweighed by a category of what I would term mountain bike skeptics. It's similar to climate change: there are a few hard-core climate change deniers who are impervious to all argument, but there are many more skeptics who doubt that the phenomenon is sufficiently understood to justify major policy changes and yet are open to discussing it. There's no point in trying to reason with the haters, but for the skeptics, I can offer no better suggestion than to try a bit of trail cycling yourselves and get to know a few mountain bikers. Your alienation may dwindle or disappear, and that can only be good for all nonmotorized trail users.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments